[Just as the furor over 39 "Heaven's Gate" suicides reported in late March was fading from public memory, two more long-time members of Marshall Applewhite's apocalyptic cult decided they had been wrong in their previous decision not to join "Ti's crew" -- a reference to their "elder members" who, they believed, were awaiting them on a spacecraft traveling with Comet Hale-Bopp. This text combines parts of two stories written by Dana Calvo for the Associated Press.]
ENCINITAS, Calif. -- A former Heaven's Gate member was found dead and another was found unconscious Tuesday, May 6, 1997 in a hotel room in what appeared to be an attempt to imitate the cult's mass suicide.
Sheriff's deputies found the body of Wayne Cooke of Las Vegas and an unconscious Chuck Humphrey of Denver after receiving a call from CBS reporter Lesley Stahl, who had spoken with Cooke's daughter, police said.
Found near both men were purple shrouds similar to those on the bodies of 39 Heaven's Gate members discovered March 26 at a rented Rancho Santa Fe mansion just four miles away, said Sgt. Don Crist.
The two men also were wearing black running outfits and black Nike shoes similar to the ones worn in the mass suicide. Crist said each had a $5 bill and three quarters in his pockets -- just like the other cult members who reportedly carried the bills after one was accused by police of vagrancy. Both men had also packed tote bags similar to those found near the bodies of the Heaven's Gate cult members, Crist said.
"They did have a note similar to the one that was found at Heaven's Gate, suggesting they were going to meet with their leader on the other side of the comet and suggesting suicide," Crist said.
Humphrey was taken to a hospital and was listed in critical condition on Tuesday, but his condition improved and was listed as serious on Wednesday, May 7. He is expected to recover.
Cooke was married to Suzanne Sylvia Cooke, who committed suicide with the other members in March. In an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" after the suicide, he said he wished he could join the group.
"I wish I had the strength to have stuck it out and gotten stronger and continued to be a part of that crew," he said.
Cooke, 54, said he was an "off and on" adherent for 23 years, but did not say why he left.
At a San Diego news conference last month, Humphrey, 56, said he left after growing impatient.
"I left the group because it had been 15 years, because many of the things we were told were going to happen didn't," he said. "I got tired of waiting."
Crist said Cooke's daughter, Kelly, received a Federal Express package stating her father and a friend were in the San Diego area planning to commit suicide using the same concoction used in the earlier suicides -- the anti-seizure drug phenobarbital and vodka.
Ms. Cooke called Ms. Stahl, who then contacted San Diego County Sheriff's Deputies, Crist said. Ms. Cooke was uncooperative and spoke only in generalities, he said.
She believed they would either take their lives at the Rancho Santa Fe mansion or near the beach, Crist said. Deputies were able to track the package to the Holiday Inn Express in Encinitas.
Deputies found both men on the floor at 12:25 p.m., Crist said. Cooke was found face-down with a plastic bag on his head. Humphrey had a plastic bag near him.
CNN reported Tuesday that it received what appeared to be a suicide tape related to the men's plans.
"I would like everyone to understand that I simply cannot stay here any longer and I am leaving because it is time for me to leave," Cooke said in a letter accompanying the tape, received by CNN's Los Angeles bureau Tuesday morning via Federal Express. "I'd rather gamble on missing the bus this time than staying on this planet and risk losing my soul."
Original file name: CNI - More H-Gate Deaths
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